Over the weekend, I went to see Good Night, and Good Luck at The Arclight. I liked it a lot, not only for its strong performances, but also its complete disregard for anything approaching traditional narrative structure.
The screenplay, by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, is full of good dialogue — much of it apparently drawn from transcripts. What it doesn’t have are other Syd Field essentials, such as character arcs, reversals, and clear motivations.
Stripped of such niceties as backstory and personal lives, the characters are left only with The Issue: challenging Joseph McCarthy and his destructive campaign against supposed Communists. Much like The Crucible can be read as an allegory about McCarthyism, Clooney’s movie draws parallels with the current between the media and the government (replace “Communist” with “terrorist” et voilà¡). But to the script’s credit, it works without this “meta” aspect. Execution matters, and it in this case, it’s executed terrifically well.
In its thematic austerity, it feels more like a play than a movie — and the fact that it’s entirely interiors adds to that sense. Some people may not like the film for that reason, and that’s valid. But the claustrophobia worked for me. Had it gone outside, I think I would have applied more “movie” expectations to it. By keeping it close and focussed, I never worried about what I was missing.